No rest for the weary.
Spring Park planning commissioners will take up the task of drafting a possible interim use ordinance that could allow some short-term rental properties to continue operating in the city even after the practice was specifically prohibited by council’s split vote earlier this fall.
The city had received from at least one of its VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) proprietors an application for rezoning his property from residential to commercial so as to continue leasing out his lake-facing property. That action, along with other communication from the property owner, nudged officials to start looking into ways the city could accommodate non-problematic rentals without relinquishing its new-found control or reneging on council’s earlier decision.
Interim use, first discussed as an option in mid-October, seemed to be the best option, and council members opted during their work session Nov. 16 to have commissioners start looking into it.
Al Brixius, city planner for Spring Park, has worked on similar projects for other cities and said the main benefit of interim use is its expiration with the sale of the property.
“It is the one land use that can be terminated based on a time or event that occurs,” he said. Otherwise, “zoning runs with the property.” Interim use can also be set up for scheduled renewal or for revocation based on nuisance violations and other events, such as the sale of the property. In this way, the city would be risking less in offering interim use than it would with a piecemeal rezoning that could lead to problem properties down the road if current owners sell, said Brixius.
Delano has a similar provision in its zoning code that in this way allows for short-term rentals in its single family homes. That city links interim use back to the issuance of a conditional use permit, which then defines case-by-case requirements for whatever use is applied for, whether a bed and breakfast or a commercial outdoor rec setup, both of which are specifically listed in the Delano code.
Spring Park council members had in September rejected 3-2 the opening of Spring Park to rental operations of fewer than 30 days, also called vacation rentals or Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO), after having looked into the possibility of its allowance over the past two years. Concern over operational standards and transient disruption in residential neighborhoods, as well as narrow lot configuration and parking scarcity, contributed to the city’s rejection of the practice.
The project doesn’t yet have a set date for coming before Spring Park’s planning commissioners, but initial discussion among council members and staff pointed toward certain locational perimeters that might help define which properties could be eligible for operating as VRBO.
Restricting permits to those properties at the edges of residential zones and with proximity to commercial areas, to those with access onto main drags or that are on corner lots were all suggestions that gained some traction.
But council member Jeff Hoffman, who also heads up the city’s planning commission, had a number of reservations.
“I’m worried that we’re affording rights and opportunities to one individual over another,” he said. “We’re drawing a really fine line as far I’m concerned. Part of government is to make it fair for everyone and unfortunately the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
Hoffman also said that a respect for zoning laws, which had guided his vote against VRBO in September, was still at play in the issuance of interim use permits, saying that just because a property borders a business district doesn’t mean it isn’t part of a residential neighborhood where certain comforts are safeguarded by established zoning regulations.
Mayor Jerry Rockvam, though he was amenable to the idea of interim use and had during the September vote supported vacation rentals in Spring Park, also noted the possible tripwire for commissioners in drawing up language that was not tailored to meet the needs of just a handful of property owners but that would be fair.
Taking into account council’s initial input on what restrictions might be in store for those looking to legitimize a VRBO via interim use, city administrator Dan Tolsma gave a preliminary number of about 10-12 properties that could benefit. About half of these are along Shoreline Drive with another handful on Dickson and Budd Lane near Lord Fletcher’s. Two properties on Sunset, approaching the boatyards, could also benefit, thanks to proximity with other business.
Because operation of vacation homes is technically prohibited in Spring Park, officials are not certain exactly how many of them exist, learning of them only through word of mouth or when they pop up on online booking sites. Officials have at different times estimated anywhere from three to seven different properties in the city that are suspected of being vacation rentals.